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Lynnwood paramedic receives VFW honor

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By Mina Williams
For The Herald
  • Firebucks program founder Kristy Forbes, a paramedic/firefighter with the Lynnwood Fire Department, displays a care package she assembled for military...

    Chris Goodenow / For The Herald

    Firebucks program founder Kristy Forbes, a paramedic/firefighter with the Lynnwood Fire Department, displays a care package she assembled for military troops oversees. The Firebucks program accepts donations of coffee, chocolate, magazines and other items to send to soldiers on tour.

  • Handwritten messages on Starbucks instant coffee packages wait to be delivered to troops overseas through the Firebucks Program.

    Chris Goodenow / For The Herald

    Handwritten messages on Starbucks instant coffee packages wait to be delivered to troops overseas through the Firebucks Program.

LYNNWOOD -- Paramedic Kristy Forbes, 50, is a dual hero with a cup of joe to share.
That is just part of the reason the paramedic of 28 years was selected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars as the state EMT of the Year. She will receive her award at the VFW state convention in Spokane in June.
"If ever there was an EMT who deserved this honor, Kristy does," said Gregg Sieloff, Lynnwood's assistant fire chief. "She does quite a bit of good stuff."
The winner is selected by a panel of judges from police and fire departments across the state. Candidates are judged on job performance, community involvement and dedication to their profession. About 150 VFWs across the state each submit a nominee.
"I'm very honored and humbled being named for this prestigious award," Forbes said. She has been with Lynnwood since 1998 as a paramedic firefighter.
Forbes' name will also be forwarded to a national committee for consideration for the national award. That announcement is expected to be made in June.
When the Washington state native is not serving the residents of Lynnwood, Forbes is a major serving as a U.S. Air Force reservist flight nurse, performing air medical evacuations. Forbes has been deployed four times while part of Lynnwood's fire service. She served as a flight nurse between Germany and remote and forward-operating bases with more than 1,330 total flight hours, 430 combat hours and 351 flight sorties to her credit.
In 2008, she started a program to bring a little taste of home to deployed service members in the form of coffee.
What started as simply dropping off a package of goodies to a service member in Afghanistan as a favor for a retired Lynnwood fire lieutenant and VFW member has blossomed into a global effort.
"As a flight nurse I could do this small favor," Forbes said. "When I realized the big impact this small package had, it got me to thinking. If I could get special treats to forward-operating bases, to people who are missing highlights of their lives, it could just bring a little 'home' to them."
Initially Forbes collected premium coffee through fellow firefighters, dubbing her efforts Firebucks. She focused on delivering the morale packages to deployed first responders.
She thought of coffee because of its tie to the camaraderie of a fire house.
"A lot of times we share coffee," Forbes said. "I wanted to extend what we share as a group to deployed troops."
She said that the symbol of sharing coffee points to what firefighters do best -- taking care of each other. Firebucks supports that firehouse tradition.
Her fellow firefighters jumped on the Firebucks program without question, she said. "It's been a team effort. This is a great department and a great crew. Lynnwood is wonderful."
With the help of Lynnwood's VFW Post 1040, more than 90 packages of coffee -- more than 200 pounds -- have been sent to nearly 30 bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Support from the VFW comes in the form of covering the shipping costs.
Now an average of six packages per month are being sent. Hot chocolate and tea are new additions to the shipments. Christine McCrosky, a Lynnwood paramedic firefighter, and Sam Traxler, a Lynnwood EMT firefighter, have both joined Forbes in co-managing Firebucks.
"Most of the packages go to austere and forward-operation bases," Forbes said. "Having been deployed I know how hard it is not being connected with the world. It inspires me to do more."
"I focus on good quality coffee and chocolate," she said. Starbucks has donated a lot of coffee. The Lynnwood Trader Joe's also has contributed.
But Forbes relies on private donations of coffee and cash to flesh out the number of packages she knows are needed. She also says that Starbucks instant-coffee packets are especially convenient for troops on the go.
"I couldn't do any of this without the support of my husband," Forbes added.
How to help
Firebucks provides donated coffee, tea and chocolate to deployed service members. Donations can be delivered to Kristy Forbes at the Lynnwood Fire Department, 18800 44th Ave. W., Lynnwood.

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